Necky Dolphin?

I posted the following in the fall, and got some excellent suggestions. As it turns out, however, there is a used Necky Dolphin (not one of the ones suggested then) which is available locally. What are your opinions on whether that would suit me? Many thanks for your help!


I am an experienced flatwater-class II canoer, who is looking to get into kayaking to stay in shape outside the summer months, given that I now live a quarter mile from a spot where I can put in on the Upper Susquehanna.

Can anyone advise me on what I should be looking for in terms of both the kayak and a paddle?

  • The primary purpose will be recreational fitness; putting in and heading upstream for an hour or two, then cooling down on the downstream return.

  • It will primarily be used flatwater-class I, although there is class II locally, which I am guessing that I will want to work myself up to.

  • There are no plans to do any touring or major whitewater.

  • I am 5’11", 185.

    Many thanks for your help!

Hmmm…my wife owned a Dolphin years ago and I’m trying to remember a few details about it. Are you specifically looking for a SOT? As far as sit-on-tops go, I think the Dolphin is decent enough. I remember it being somewhat heavy and a pain to get up on the roof, but that’s true for most SOTs. It was a little rudder-dependant. In rough water the bow had a tendency to ride up over waves and slam down on the other side.

Keep in mind this wasn’t my boat and I didn’t spend a lot of time in it. I think it’s probably fine for recreational type paddling and fishing or photography. The Dolphin is getting a little long in the tooth, so look over used models carefully (especially the rudder system if equipped.)

SOT or Not
I am not specifically after a SOT - my preference would in fact be not.

Since you are not looking for SOT

– Last Updated: Apr-23-10 12:24 PM EST –

specifically, you can look at the more slender under 16 foot sea kayaks. I paddle my 13.5 Perception Sonoma Airalight a lot on white water up to class III (mostly class II and class I with a couple of rapids getting into easy class III at some water levels).

These I've seen for under $600 used in great condition. I use mine for all sorts of paddling and it can keep up with moderately paced touring groups on flat water just fine.

The boat works very well for exercise, actually. It is fast (for its length) and is light (about 40lb), narrow at the catch area so it allows an efficient paddling stroke - good for fittness paddling since you mention it and to cover some distance. Occasional bumps and going over a rock here and there so far have only produced very shallow scratches so the material is OK for this.

But realistically, any 12-16 footer should do well for class I and easy class II.

You will get used to the current if you paddle a lot. So if you are OK with somewhat of a learning curve, go for something that is no wider than 24". In the currents eventually you would want to develop balance and not rely on the boat's stability and once you do that, the extra width will just be slowing you down.

EDIT: forgot to mention - your size is in the sweet spot for most kayaks and for exercise purposes, you should be looking for the ones made for small to medium paddlers. I am considered a tall and large paddler at 6'4" and 185lb (with day gear a little over 200lb) and a boat like the Sonoma is just perfect for day trips and holds my weight and size very well (foot pegs not long enough but I have custom foot rest placed; you should have no problems). Look at Tsunami 125 or 135 too. For Class I really anything should work and you can go longer than that for speed. But if there is a strong current that you do not want to fight and instead you will be addy-hopping upstream you want to stay below 16 feet probably for maneuverability.

paddled the Dolphin for about 10 hours my thoughts are as follows: at your weight of 185, you are well into the upper end of this kayak and if you add any gear, I vote no.

This kayak performs well for anyone with a total weight of not more than 180, it sits too low and does not feel responsive at all. They are well made, however, on the tippy side for a SOT. If you are trying to cover any distance with this yak at your weight, you will end up not liking it. Also the seat area is very tight for anyone wearing 36" waist pants on up and if adding a snap in seat, it’s even tighter. IMO, you are much better off in a OK Prowler 15 or Tarpon 14 or 16. I have the Tarpon 16 and it’s a darn good SOT and in big water, you will appreciate the Prowler or Tarpon way more than the Necky.

Dolphin Is a Play Boat

– Last Updated: Apr-26-10 2:57 PM EST –

It had a following amoung people who like to play off shore in big swells, but too much rocker for flat water.

Check the PENT Classifed

One of my favorite SOT’s, older design but friendly.

If it has “Made in Canada” on the logo it’s an older boat but made of superior plastic.

If price is right … good deal
The Dolphin is an older design when Necky was going for a hull shape that would be seaworthy and offer performance and yet be stable as a sit on top. It feels a bit tippy to heavier and inexperienced paddlers but it is fairly fast for it’s length especially in waves and if you use thigh straps it’s pretty maneuverable and likes to paddle through rough water. Not designed for whitewater but would work for what you are doing. Not a speed demon but if you want to get out on the water, you can probably offer $300 -$400 and have a great first kayak.